Open data leaders: ODI publishes method paper on how to create and sustain peer networks

In the wake of the third cohort of open data leaders visiting the ODI for a week of peer-learning as part of the Open Data Leaders' Network, the ODI has published a method report on how to use peer networks to develop open data leadership

null Open data leaders at ODI HQ for the Open Data Leaders' Network in February 2016. CC BY 2.0, uploaded by the ODI.

Establishing strong capacity for leadership in a relatively new policy area like open data can be daunting. While sharing experiences with other leaders in different contexts can help, even more useful is joining a network for long-term peer-learning and engagement.

The ODI has today published a method report to help organisations, researchers and global development practitioners create successful peer networks that support leaders implementing open data initiatives, whether in the private or public sector.

The report explores peer networks, their key features and what makes them most effective. It also raises ongoing challenges, such as how to sustain a network beyond the initial engagement stages. It forms one in a series produced by the ODI as part of the Open Data for Development Network, supported by a grant from the International Development Research Centre.

Peer networks: a tool for high-level reform

The report finds that peer networks have great potential to support open data practice and facilitate high-level reform. People who participate in peer networks often feel more empowered, having boosted their social capital and learned new skills. Successful peer networks have a clear shared vision and formalised governance structure over time.

What makes a successful peer network

Drawing lessons from a body of literature and peer network evaluations, the report offers recommendations for organisations or practitioners interested in convening peer networks to support open data leadership.

Key recommendations include promoting ‘network thinking’ around participants, and helping them to build relationships through face-to-face and virtual engagement. Also important to network success is a focus on being flexible enough to meet external opportunities and adapt to the needs of network members – which may shift.

The report finds that successful networks generally have a highly motivated convenor who attracts resources, mobilises members and engages new participants. They also use platforms that enable members to self-organise, engage and take ownership over actions.

The report also recommends that network credibility and influence can be bolstered with high-quality research and outputs, produced by members, along with stories, tools, resources and guides. Finally, the report suggests that network success in the long-term depends on ongoing monitoring and evaluation of network outputs and outcomes, with input from members, so that approaches can be adapted where necessary.

If you have insights into open data and network building that you would like to share, we want to hear from you. Get in touch with [email protected] or tweet us at @ODIHQ.

Anna Scott is Writer / Editor at the ODI. Follow @annadscott on Twitter.